Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: The Internet Archive

I just stumbled across genealogy records available (for free) on the Internet Archive, a repository of Internet info that chronicles changes on the Web and stores all kinds of historical and cultural data. Want to see a video of old Commodore 64 video games? You can find 'em on the Internet Archive.

The link to the genealogy holdings takes you to holdings shared by the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Robarts Library at the University of Toronto; the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library; the National Library of Scotland; and the Boston Public Library. 

Info ranges from publications about Mayflower descendants to Passenger and Crew Vessel Lists for NYC, 1910 and 1940 and other years.
Check it out! Maybe you'll find something you were looking for. 

2022 Update: I've had great luck using the Internet Archive to access phone directories and find home addresses for ancestors who are in the 1950 US Census.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: PS 103 in the Bronx

My elementary school, Public School 103 in the Bronx, NY, thoughtfully provided this b/w photo at the front of the official autograph album I bought for my 6th grade graduation.

You can guess the approximate year by looking at the vehicles parked near my school!

Thankfully, I saved the album and can now list my teachers from kindergarten through 6th grade. See the photo of my teachers' names, above, written in my favorite turquoise ink. Yes, I had the same teacher in 4th and 5th grade, and no, she was no relation because my marriage into the Wood family was decades in the future!

Mr. Zantell, my 6th grade teacher, was a jovial, easy-going, smart guy and a favorite teacher too. Sis and I were in that class together, one of the rare times in our school careers when we shared a classroom. Because Mom was a twin, she understood first-hand the need to develop separate personalities and avoid too-intense rivalry over school achievements. That's why she put Sis and me in separate classes most of the time. That didn't always work out well, but in 6th grade, we had a good time (and occasionally fooled teacher and classmates).

PS 103, located at 4125 Carpenter Avenue, was a 10-block walk from the apartment building where my family lived. We (and later our younger sister) walked to and from school twice a day: In the morning, we walked there; for lunch, we walked home; after lunch, we walked back to school; and after school, we walked home again. Only when my twin took guitar lessons and I took accordion (!) lessons did we get a ride to school from a kind neighbor. Otherwise, we crossed streets ourselves, sauntered home past the candy store, and got a lot of fresh air and exercise using our feet as transportation.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Open Thread Thursday: The Genealogy Experience

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers poses this question today:

When you “do genealogy” – be it research, heritage travel, publishing a family history book – what do you want to come away with? Is the concept of an experience even important? Should we be concerned with what genealogists and family historians experience when they interact with the genealogy industry? What do you see as the components of a meaningful genealogy experience? Education? Product creation? Research? Travel?

One part of the experience, for me, is the goal of preparing a family tree so future generations know where they came from (location and people) and get a sense of what our ancestors were like. I'm delighted I have such a wide range of products available for this purpose (software for generating trees, Web sites for publishing books, etc).

Research is vital, and I really value sources that are clear and accessible. It's great to be able to use both HeritageQuest and Ancestry, for instance, to look at old Census records, because images on one are sometimes more readable than the images on another. Of course  something scanned 10 years ago might look much better if scanned with today's technology, but there are so many sources to digitize. However do sites in the genealogy industry prioritize?

Another, more urgent part of the experience is my hope of connecting with cousins. Just this month I uncovered a previously unknown cousin of my husband, only to immediately learn that she had died 10 months ago. We've written her daughter (no answer yet, but it's only 2 weeks since the letter was sent). If only we had found the cousin earlier, maybe we could have shared family stories and even photos. That's why I think, on balance, that it's good for sites to push ahead with digitizing materials never before available or searchable online.

So many ancestors and relatives, so little time. My blog successfully served as cousin bait when my 2d cousin Lois found me one year ago. We've really enjoyed getting to know each other's families and sharing long-forgotten family stories.

Maybe other relatives will go looking for my family or my husband's family and, in doing an online search, will land on this blog and make the connection. Fingers crossed!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Motivation Monday: Hooray for Gen Listservs (Dated)

A few years ago, I joined the RootsWeb listserv for Wyandot County, Ohio. Hubby's grandmother and great-aunts are from there, and I'm always looking for more about those Steiner sisters--I've mentioned their names in this blog from time to time. (2022 note: Listservs aren't used much any more and this one hasn't been updated.)

Today's listserv digest of post activities for Wyandot Rootsweb brought me a very welcome bit of news: Timothy Fisher has a Web site with links to genealogical and historical info for Wyandot County.

Following the links, I was led to a few free online directories/histories of Wyandot.
In the 1877 directory, I found E.G. Steiner, carpenter, who I know (from other research) married Elizabeth Rinehart. They're hubby's maternal g-grandparents. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Surname Saturday: Cleveland Cousins Edith Wise and Dorothy Nicholas

My late father-in-law (Edgar James Wood) kept diaries every year for many, many years. His diary entry for Feb 23, 1966 says: "Evening, went to Ash Wednesday service at church, meeting cousins Edith Wise & Dorothy Nicholas there." A diary entry from 1963 speaks of dinner with "Edith & Janice Wise."

Edgar and his wife, Marian McClure Wood, lived in Cleveland Heights, OH, and were members of the St. Paul's East Cleveland Episcopal Church (shown above as it looks to Google Maps street view, these days). This is where they went to Ash Wednesday service when they met cousins Edith and Dorothy.

I can't find any other references to Wise or Nicholas in family records, although my sis-in-law remembers a "cousin Edith" attending her wedding (1970s) in Cleveland.

Of course, I haven't finished reading his diaries...so maybe Edith and Dorothy will show up again in an entry later.**

**24 hours later, I'm still reading diaries and have found more entries about Edith & Janice Wise indicating they were Edgar Wood's cousins, living somewhere not far from him in Cleveland area. Dorothy Nicholas is in town one day in 1968 for her granddaughter's wedding, and that prompts Edgar & his wife Marian to visit with Edith & Janice Wise and Dorothy, who's there. Now to track down exactly which branch of the family the Wises are from...

2022 update: Dorothy and Edith were Edgar's 1st cousins. They were the daughters of his aunt Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter and her husband, James Sills Baker. I connected with folks from those families last year!

Friday, October 7, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Trouble--Backyard Rocket Science

A guest post from my hubby, Wally, about troubles as a teen in Cleveland, Ohio:

One summer when I was14 or 15, I taught myself how to make gunpowder (!) out of the ingredients that came in my trusty A.C. Gilbert Chemistry Set (similar to the one above)...and quickly realized that the compound would work as a rocket fuel.

So I took apart a bicycle horn that had a trumpet-shaped bell and soldered it to a small tin can loaded with my homemade gunpowder (doing this with tools readily available in my family's basement workshop).

Outside, I suspended my makeshift rocket from a wire that I ran the length of the backyard--only a foot off the ground. Then I crouched beside it and used an eyedropper full of sulfuric acid to set off the gunpowder inside the can.

The gunpowder caught fire, burned, smoke and fire came out the nozzle of the "rocket," and it zoomed across the wire!

My parents had no problems with backyard rocketry until the first time I put my dirty jeans in the laundry chute. My mother pulled my jeans out of the washing machine and noticed they were polka-dotted with dozens of holes, some as big as a dime. Hmmmm....

The sulfuric acid had weakened the denim and in the wash, the threads disintegrated, leaving neat little holes. Lots and lots of them.

"No more sulfuric acid." So I then had to devise another way to ignite the gunpowder from a distance. To be continued!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Workday Wednesday: James Edgar Wood, Cleveland Builder

Hubby's grandfather, James Edgar Wood, was a builder in Cleveland. He married Mary Slatter, one of my brick walls (I can't find her city/town of birth in England or what became of her siblings in Canada, but that's an old story by now).

James Edgar Wood's simple but effective plan was to build a home, move his growing family into it, and finish the details while framing another home, which he then moved into...wash, rinse, repeat.

Recently, my sis-in-law sent me a series of addresses in and around Cleveland, Ohio where James and Mary lived from 1907 to 1918, taken from correspondence. He was clearly expanding his business during this period!

1907-8:  7203 Duluth St (Ave?), Cleveland
1909:  1401 E. 112 Street, Cleveland
1909-10:  1405 E. 112 Street, Cleveland (they lived here during the 1910 Census)
1910:  12600 Penobsot Ave (?), Cleveland
1911-12:  12513 Lancelot Ave., Cleveland
1913:  637 Hayden Ave., East Cleveland
1914:  456 E. 124 Street, Cleveland
1914-6:  12310 Locke Ave, Cleveland
1918:  2556 Idlewood Rd, Cleveland Heights

Because of this list, I was able to match a previously unidentified photo of one of James Wood's homes to a specific address and year. Here's the photo, followed by the Google maps photo of today.

This is clearly 12513 Lancelot Avenue in Cleveland, where the family lived from 1911-2. Hot dog! A small victory. Undoubtedly the two boys in the older photo are my hubby's Dad, Edgar James Wood, who at about 8 was the oldest of four sons at the time of this photo, and Wally, second-oldest at about 6 years old. (The other two Wood children were younger: John was about 3 at the time of this photo, and Ted was an infant.)

Grandfather James would be delighted to know that his well-built home is still standing and quite recognizable.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: New Life for Old Slides--Going Digital

If I'm ever going to get my family histories into shape--illustrations and all--I have to admit that I can't always do everything myself. Up until now, I've been scanning my own slides, four at a time, then cleaning up the results with Picasa. It's slow and the results are, well, literally spotty. 

UPDATE: There are newer and faster methods for scanning slides, in 2022. This post is a bit outdated, but I did scan the very best of the family slides professionally.

Of course pros can scan slides at a higher dpi, much faster, and wind up with a higher-quality image full of detail and color. But with a bookshelf full of slides, I feared emptying my wallet over this.

Turns out my local Costco will scan 35 mm slides at high resolution for less than 30 cents each, including automated cleaning (especially important with old dusty slides) and other nitty-gritty services that make a big difference in the quality of the .jpg output. I bet other places have similarly reasonable prices for scanning slides, with good results.

Here's a slide taken more than 30 years ago, showing my oldest niece with my parakeet Tyrone. (Aren't they both the cutest things?!)

This professionally-scanned slide is obviously squeaky clean! And the image is really sharp. You can count almost the eyelashes on my niece's face and the feathers on Tyrone's wings.

I can't afford to scan every slide, but I'm picking and choosing the ones that matter. This is a worthwhile investment in documenting my family history.